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DH Lawrence, The Rainbow

No, I haven’t completed it again, although I might feel differently about it a few chapters later; but of all Lawrence’s novels, bearing in mind that all his openers are strong, I find the Rainbow's first chapter the most powerful (with Women in Love, naturally, a close second). A complete and thorough introduction to character, method and theme, it's psychologically acute and representative of everything to come after. In a way, he is mad in his completeness and reach for succinct totality. DHL is a subjective surgeon operating in a strange world of animal darkness, of pained relationships with their insidious needs and smarting negations, the biblical knowing and biblical language; of couples desperate for completion and yet too intense for the ultimate possibility. It's all shockingly animal. A 'scape where instinct battles for spirituality but fails in its fires. A place where winds in the trees mirror the windy strains of the heart. It's an amazing personal achievement — I can’t think of any other writer of late that has as much subjective force. It had me thinking again of one of Henry Miller's finest passages (from Nexus, methinks) where he expresses his love of characteristic openings in novels: some authors floating high over the work but casting vultural shadows, others mad and schizophrenically intertwined with every word and seed of the book.
He put on all clean clothes, folded his stock carefully, and donned his best coat. Then, being ready, as grey twilight was falling, he went across to the orchard to gather the daffodils. The wind was roaring in the apple-trees, the yellow flowers swayed violently up and down, he heard even the fine whisper of their spears as he stooped to break the flattened, brittle stems of the flowers.
‘What to-do?’ shouted a friend who met him as he left the garden gate.
‘Bit of courtin’, like,’ said Brangwen.
And Tilly, in a great state of trepidation and excitement, let the wind whisk her over the field to the big gate, whence she could watch him go.
He went up the hill and on towards the vicarage, the wind roaring through the hedges, whilst he tried to shelter his bunch of daffodils by his side. He did not think of anything, only knew that the wind was blowing. (p40, Oxford Classics)
The actual courtin' scene itself is a masterfully succinct piece of subjective difficulty and violent otherness (to use a term I'd rather not). Full of instant and flushing transformations. Vivid.

posted by rino breebaart  # 8:26 am
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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